Sharks back to winning ways

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Having lost their opening match to the Pumas in Nelspruit, the men from Durban were always going to pose a threat to the Kings who were also eager to get a win under the belt.

The desperation that was prevalent in both sides made for an intriguing battle played in windy conditions and at the end it was the Sharks who adapted better even though the visitors put up a brave performance.

George Whitehead was the first man to cross the try-line for the Kings in their bonus-point loss as he slid past the Sharks defence to give the Kings a 5-3 lead after Lionel Cronje had opened the scoring with a penalty.

The Sharks were throughout the night quick to bounce back when points were scored against them and their first five-pointer of the evening came courtesy of Andre Esterhuizen who hung on to a precision kick by Cronje to score in the corner.

Even though Joe Pietersen hit the upright with his conversion, it was clear that there was a momentum shift that would go the home’s side way.

For the Sharks there will be great encouragement in the try Cronje scored in the 17th minute as it was a trademark counter-attack finish that brought back memories of great Sharks sides that have took pride in their ability to exploit teams on the back foot.

Pietersen converted to give the Sharks a 15-5 lead and he later made it 18-5 with another solid penalty kick.

For the Kings, Whitehead missed three easy chances in the first half, but his side managed to stay in the hunt through eighthman Tim Agaba who barged his way over the line just before the break.

Agaba was one of the stand-out players of the evening and should become a marked man as the competition progresses.

The Sharks headed for the tunnel with only 14-men on the field after Philip Van Der Walt was yellow carded for cynical play, and that disadvantage was well exploited by the Kings who scored two more tries in his absence.

First Steven Sykes dotted down and then Enrico Acker gave the Kings the lead shortly before the 50-minute mark.

Where the Sharks struggled to remain composed in their loss to the Pumas last week, they showed great composure and were able to regain the lead through Pietersen’s boot.

The stage was set for a thrilling final 15 minutes with the Sharks leading 23-22, but handling errors prevented the sides from playing their natural game. In the end it was a case of the maturity of the Sharks proving more valuable than the spirited effort the Kings brought to the match.

In an exciting finish, replacement Paul Jordaan showed that he still has the skills from playing for the national Sevens team as he burst past three defenders, handing off one, to score a decisive try for his team.

After Jordaan’s try it was a case of game management for the Sharks who this week showed vast improvement on defence, but also more creativity when presented with turn-over possession.

As was the case in the first half, the Sharks again left with 14 men after Odwa Ndungane was binned for a poorly-timed aerial charge on Luther Obi.

Scorers: Sharks 33 (18): Tries: Andre Esterhuizen, Lionel Cronje, Daniel du Preez, Paul Jordaan. Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2). Penalties: Joe Pietersen (3).

EP Kings 25 (10): Tries: George Whitehead, Tim Agaba, Steven Sykes, Enrico Acker. Conversion: George Whitehead. Penalty: Whitehead – African News Agency (ANA)

Original source: Sharks back to winning ways

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